Wordless Wednesday 20/8/14 – Colchicum

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

My Garden this Weekend 17/8/14 – A Warts & All Tour

2014_08170029

I have weeded, dead-headed, cut back and generally given the garden a good sort out this weekend and during the evenings last week.  It was long overdue and the chaos that has been irritating me for weeks, if not months, is as a result of holidays, other commitments and weather either heavy rain or a heatwave.  I garden to relax, to de-stress and the lack of time I have had outside has taken a toil on me, the garden and the blog.  Anyway, as its all tidy, in fact over tidy, I thought I would take you on a warts and all tour.  I did a tour around this time last year and looking back I can see I have done some of the things I said but not others – some areas have improved and others not.

2014_08170020 We will start the tour by entering the back garden via the side path and you will see the ridiculous amount of seed trays and pots of seedlings I have.  I have been saying to online friends recently that I need to stop buying seeds.  ‘No’ they say, there is always room for seeds but to be honest I seem to have lost the fascination with growing things from seed.  I am sure it will come back at some point but I feel a real need to regroup at the moment.

Going round the corner we are on the patio with is long and thin and runs along the back of the house.  There are borders either side of the greenhouse between the patio and wall.  These were the first places planted up and have had a few changes over the eleven years we have been there but I am pretty happy with them now.

2014_081700222014_08170027

I am especially pleased with the fern border as I love the textures here and most of the ferns are evergreen so it even looks Ok in the winter.

2014_08170025

At the end of the patio we find the steps up to the back garden and just to the right is the staging which appears every month in the End of Month View.  The steps are quite narrow 2014_08170030and are the only access to the back garden so everything – plants, compost etc have to be dragged up here by hand; wheelbarrows are useless.

The gravel steps, at the top of the steep steps,  which were finished last year have been a boon. When we moved in this was all grass, in fact the garden was mainly grass, and there was a path of large paving slabs which sloped with the angle of the garden and were really slippery.

If you stand at the top of the steep steps before the gravel steps and turn left you have the newish path that runs between the ‘Cottage Border’ and the ‘Big Border.  This was put in as an access path but I use it more than any other path in the garden and its the cat’s favourite place to sunbath.

2014_08170031

The Cottage Border has been the focus of much irritation over the last few months.  You may recall that it has been home to a collection of delphiniums which looked wonderful.  However, they only flowered for a couple of weeks and the foliage and size of the plants were smothering everything around them and then when the stems were cut down large holes in the border appeared.  I made the decision to take them out as they were boring me!  Today they were lifted and the border tidied and sorted.  I have a collection of plants waiting to go in which should add texture and foliage interest and compliment the roses.

2014_08170034

Big gaps in the borders have appeared which made me smile as I have been saying for a while I don’t have any more room.  However, I want to think through my options carefully.  I have had a range of plants in this area and I have come to the conclusion that I don’t do messy or the billowing prairie/grass look – I am too much of a neat nick. The plants I love are ferns, roses, irises, epimediums, peonies and bulbs such as narcissus and crocus and I think I need to focus on these more.

2014_08170035

As the path curves up to the right you come to the original woodland border.  This is the first year I have been pleased with it – I am such a tough critic.  I have been mentally stuck with having small short woodland plants in this area which are great in the spring but dull the rest of the year.  This spring I moved things around and added some large plants

2014_08170037

including melianthus, some asters, persicaria and euphorbia.  They have given the border substance (although the persicaria really needs reducing before it engulfs its neighbours).  This is the sort of planting I enjoy and am trying to replicate elsewhere in the garden. The

2014_08170038

path brings you to an area of sadness.  Here was an Acer that my sons and late sister bought for me some years back.  It has looked stunning for years but for some reason that I cannot fathom it died this winter.  This weekend we pulled it out and it has left a large gap in the border.  You can see how dry the soil is and this is due to the neighbour’s trees whose roots fill this area.  Interestingly though the fatsia planted two years ago just the left of the photo is going great guns.  Turning our back to this area we have the grass path in front of us which runs along the other side of the Big Border to the first path.  On the left of the path is the front of the Not Very Bog Border and this is another area I struggle with.

2014_08170041

I am pleased with the Big Border – I need to add some shorter plants along the edges to hide the legs of the asters etc and I need to sort out the far end as there are too many strappy leaves here so its all a little samey.  I have some ideas I just need to implement them.

2014_08170040

This is the most, probably, troublesome area.  The ground gets quite dry here and I have been trying to find a character for it for years.  In fact I said the same a year ago when I did the tour of the garden.  There are some rusty foxgloves which do well here and also ferns but then, as you will see, I have lots of ferns elsewhere.  I am toying with removing the Spirea to the right of the variegated Cornus and replacing it with a Cotinus.  I think this might give the foxgloves a good backdrop and I have some Crocosmia and Geums that I was thinking of putting in here which would also look good with a purple background.

2014_08170043

At the end of the grass path if you turn left up the gravel steps you head to the new seating area which I love.  However, there is this corner which perplexes me.  It the other end of the border in the photo above – in fact the whole border challenges me.  There are phloxs in here which have looked wonderful albeit bitty and also Lobelia tupa.  I am thinking of moving the lobelia to the Big Border and also maybe the Phloxes and starting again but with what?

2014_08170018

The new seating area is in front of the Hardy Exotic Border and I though I would pull the seat out so you can see how it is coming along and so I can weed.  Again I am pleased with the textures here and its all foliage based.  I could move the Lobelia tupa here but I’m not sure there is room.   Turning around we have the Not Very Bog Border which is alright but looking back to last year’s post there was more interest with the bronze foliage of the Ligularia.  However, I am going to leave it to establish and fill out and see how things go.

2014_08170046

If I moved the Cotinus to this border it will also provide a backdrop to this area which might be good.

2014_08170047

There is a secret path which runs between the Not Very Bog Border and the Slope.  I have been planting my growing collection of epimediums and ferns around this area but there is room for more. We go to the end of the path and there are some slabs steps which go up and to the right and lead to a path along the top of the slope.  You can see a small border at the base of the tree and I need to sort this out as it has suffered neglect.  There is space in here for a shrub at the back and I have a number of ideas which I will investigate.

2014_08170051The long narrow border along the fence has been a struggle over the years.  I planted some bamboo in here four years ago to act as a screen to the neighbour’s house behind and they are now finally establishing and filling out.  I want to add some more big foliage in here but again need to decide what.

As you can see the path needs sorting.  It was covered in wood chip which the birds and badger loved and in the winter it was like a mine field to walk along because of the holes dug in it.  I want to replace the bark with gravel and hopefully I will find the time and energy to do this soon.

2014_08170052

All my tidying up has added to the compost heap which was out of control before I started.  You can just see the bamboo to the left of the heaps which I thinned today.  This is just to the right of where the Acer has been taken out and acts as a screen to the bins when it isn’t collapsing everywhere.  I am thinking of taking the bamboo out and possibly moving it somewhere in front of the back fence and replacing it with an ever green shrub.  The biggest problem I have now which only came to light yesterday is that the top branch of the willow has snapped and it has partially fallen.

2014_08170053I need to get a tree surgeon to sort it out and also to look at the whole tree which is far to big for its location.  I’m not sure how the surgery will affect the light in this area so I will probably have to wait and see before I make any significant changes to the planting.

I am currently reading Margery Fish as I like her attitude and she liked the plants I do.  I think I might try and fit in a trip to East Lambrook in the coming weeks to see what it looks like at this time of year as this is when I struggle most as my favourite plants have all finished.  I have a couple of weeks leave coming up so I hope to do some planting and planning then.

Anyway, that’s my garden warts and all

Posted in Big border, bog garden, Cottage Garden Border, Foliage, My Garden, My garden this weekend, The Slope (incl Daisy Border), Uncategorized, Woodland border | Tagged , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – August 2014

2014_08130028logo Here we are at the end of August and I have been lamenting the lack of colour in my garden.  I have been more interested in foliage in the last year and I wondered whether this has had a negative impact on the floral display however looking at these photographs it is clear there is plenty of colour but much is in the cooler tones rather than in the rich colours that are common at this time of year.  I think I need to add some brighter tones to the borders so I will be seeing what I can find at the local nurseries over the coming weeks.

2014_08130030logo

I have a few Asters but I am struggling to work out which is which as the poor plants have been moved so many times over the last two years.  I will have to ask my friend Helen Picton to identify them.  However I do know the small-flowered white one above is Aster umbellatus – the flowers create a sort of white hazy above the rest of the planting.

2014_08130032logo

Keeping the unintentional cool theme going in the Big Border, along with the Asters, is this herbaceous clematis.  I bought it last year but for the life of me I cannot find the label this evening  but I love the softness of the blue which reminds me of wedgewood china.

2014_08130023logoThe liatris is looking wonderful at the moment in fact this is the best it has ever been and it seems to be thriving in its new location in the Big Border so much so that I think I will try to bulk it up or buy some additional plants to make more impact. There are some Rudbeckia about to open in this area which should really zing up the border.

On the patio the colours get stronger with the Dahlias really stealing the show.  However, I seem to have a number of deep burgundy ones and I think I could do with some other colours to add a contrast. Below we have Con Amore, Juliet, Jowey Mirelle and Chat Noir

2014_08130019logo 2014_08130016 2014_08130018

2014_08130020

In the front garden is my new Crocosmia Sunglow which I hope to plant out this weekend.  I do like the orangey yellow Crocosmias more so than the bright red ones.

2014_08130012 I’m not sure which Crocosmia this is as I have had it for years.  It has wonderful bronze foliage and is a mass of flowers. 2014_08130005 Finally I will leave you with a Japanese Anemone.  I have had these plants for ever and they are currently located in the shady corner of the front garden in front of a bamboo.  They seem to be doing well here and there is plenty of space for them to spread out so they may well get to stay put!

2014_08130008

For other Garden Blogger Bloom Day posts visit Carol over at May Dreams.

Posted in August, Big border, garden, Garden Bloggers Bloom Day | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Wordless Wednesday 13/8/14 – Zinnia

Zinnia

Zinnia

Posted in August, gardening, Photography, Wordless Wednesday | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

My Garden This Weekend – 10th August 2014

Dahlia 'Chat Noir'

Dahlia ‘Chat Noir’

I haven’t been in the garden this weekend apart from to take some photographs.  Sunday has been wet and windy thanks to residue of hurricane Bertha once she had blasted across the Atlantic.  We have had very heavy downpours and it is much cooler which I for one am grateful for.  The garden should certainly have benefited from the rain.  On Saturday I 2014_08100007missed out on the good gardening weather as I spent all day at the local horticultural show – exhibiting, stewarding and generally helping out.  You can see some of the horticultural delights on our society website here.  I didn’t enter much as life has been a little hectic recently and I didn’t want to cause myself more stress than I already had.  I entered five floral classes and won two thirds and a highly commended and I entered a scarf in the handicraft section and won a second.  Not as good as last year but all things considered not bad.

I have been pondering the border along the top of the wall.  Recently I have mentioned that I am going to remove the Delphinium and go for something that will have a longer period of interest.  I recently saw an article in one of the glossy magazines (Gardens Illustrated I think) about a garden in Holland and I was struck by the planting in the borders which had a strong colour palette with a lot of foliage interest.  I have started planning the border with the above purchases of sedums, stacys, imperata and lily grass.  I think the colours will work well with the roses and abelia at the beginning of the border.  Once I have removed all the delphiniums and improved the soil I am going to work my way down the border planting a block at a time in an attempt to get some harmony and interest. Who knows it may work.

2014_08100010 2014_08100008

The heavy rain has been a good test for the pond.  Although this is a rather grandiose title for what is essentially an old tin bath.  The long term intention is to use it as a collecting pond for the downpipe off the shed but we just haven’t had time to put the guttering up and I have no idea when we may get around to this.  However in the meantime I have added some zantedeschia and a white lobelia.  The zantedeschia have thrived especially when the weather was hotter.  I need to do some research into whether I can leave them over winter or not.  We also need to re-site the bath so that it doesn’t lean towards the shed! I am sure it was straight when we placed it but maybe it has settled strangely into the gravel.

2014_08100012

The Big Border is looking good and full at the moment and the asters are beginning to flower.  I am leaving this border alone for the coming year apart from adding some interest along the opposite edge and filling a few gaps.  I also think I need to tie the Euphorbia into the planting better as it looks like a sore thumb so maybe some more silver is needed?

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in August, Big border, gardening, My Garden, My garden this weekend | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Book Review: The Bee

Bees

I agreed to review The Bee: A Natural History by Noah Wilson-Rich because I was curious to know more about bees.  As a garden blogger who uses social media extensively I have felt bombarded in the last year or so about the demise of the bee and how we have to help them.  I am of course aware that recently bees have suffered from viruses but given that the number of bees seem to be increasing in my garden and also in the ‘garden’ area outside my office at work I often feel a little perplexed by this apparent contradiction.  I have also started to notice the difference between the various bees visiting my garden so I was hoping the book would help me work out who is who.

The author, Noah Wilson-Rich, as well as being a Biology academic, is the founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Best Bees Company in Boston which supplies gardeners with bee related products; profits from the business fund research into bee disease and immune function.  However, despite the academic background of the author the book is very accessible.

The book starts with Evolution and Development at which point I learnt that bees evolved from carnivorous wasps and that bees evolved as a result of plants developing flowers; I had never even thought of the origin of bees before. We then go through the anatomy and biology of bees and I have to admit I got a little befuddled when the book talked about genomics, informatics and the endocrine system! Luckily the book is illustrated  extensively with photographs and drawings so if like me you don’t have a scientific background you can still get an idea of what is being discussed!.  The third chapter focusses on society and behaviour which is really fascinating particularly when you consider, as Wilson-Rich draws to our attention, how the evolution of the honeybee society and reproduction is contrary to Darwin’s theory of evolution. Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest is completely at odds with the honeybees approach of all new bees in a hive being produced by one female, the Queen.  I am going to go back to read through this when I have more time as I find it intriguing.

We then trip through two chapters on Bees and Humans and Bee-keeping which I have to admit to skimming as bee-keeping isn’t of interest to me.  Then we move into what was for me one of the best chapters of the book, A Directory of Bees, which looks in detail at 40 of the “world’s most remarkable bees”.  These are divided into solitary, bumble, stingless and honey bees and there are some wonderful names out there such as the Sugarbag Bee, the Teddy Bear Bee and the wonderful black and spotty Domino Cuckoo Bee – all from Australia.

The book closes with a chapter looking at The Challenges Faced by Bees.  I was interested to see that Wilson-Rich debunks the theory that if bees were to be wiped out humankind would only have four years. Apparently this is a comment ascribed to Einstein although there seems to be little factual evidence backing this up.  Wilson-Rich argues that humankind would be able to continue albeit on a dull diet as we would eventually loose all bee-pollinated food crops and would be reliant on wind-pollinated crops such as grains.  It was also interesting to learn that in China they are already hand pollinating almond trees due to bee loses.  I would stress that Wilson-Rich does not argue there is no real substance to the environmental claims relating to bees but what this book does is to explain the issues in accessible language without an emotional overtone which I often feels comes across in the media at the moment.  He closes the book by encouraging readers to plant bee friendly plants, to get involved in Citizen Science by recording what bees they see and lobbying.  His last paragraph points us to the success story of the reintroduction of the short-haired bumblebee in the UK.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has a passing interest in bees as its presentation with beautiful illustrations will encourage you to dip in and pick up more information as you do. You can also look up bees from your country and find out what food sources and habitat they require so you can be more targeted in your approach. Many of the facts are intriguing – one of my favourites is that drones do not have a father, but they do have a grandfather; now that does get the brain cells working!

 

 

Posted in Book Reviews, Insects, Reviews, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Wordless Wednesday 5/8/14 – Phyllostachys pubescens

Phyllostachys pubescens

Phyllostachys pubescens

Posted in August, garden, gardening, Photography, Plants, Wordless Wednesday | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments